Brian Cooney – Associated Press June 29, 2005
A U.S. Chinook helicopter that crashed in eastern Afghanistan was likely shot down by hostile fire, and the fate of 17 American service members aboard was unclear, the U.S. military said Wednesday. The Taliban claimed to have attacked the aircraft.
The troops were on a mission against al-Qaida fighters when the helicopter went down Tuesday in a mountainous region near Asadabad, in Kunar province.
"The helicopter was transporting forces into the area as part of Operation Red Wing, which is part of the enduring fight to defeat al-Qaida militants," a military statement said. "Initial reports indicate the crash may have been caused by hostile fire. The status of the service members is unknown at this time."
The military said coalition and Afghan troops "quickly moved into position around the crash to block any enemy movement toward or away from the site" and that coalition support aircraft were overhead.
"This is a tragic event for all of us, and our hearts and prayers go out to the families, loved ones and men still fighting in the area," said U.S. Army Brig. Gen. Greg Champion, deputy commanding general of Combined Joint Task Force-76. "This incident will only further our resolve to defeat the enemies of peace."
Provincial Gov. Asadullah Wafa told The Associated Press that the Taliban downed the aircraft with a rocket. He gave no other details.
Purported Taliban spokesman Mullah Latif Hakimi telephoned the AP before news of the crash was released and said the rebels shot the helicopter down.
He said the rebels filmed the attack and would release the video to the media. He also claimed that rebels killed seven U.S. soldiers in an attack in the same area, though U.S. spokeswomen Lt. Cindy Moore said no such attack had been made on an American convoy.
Hakimi often calls news organizations to claim responsibility for attacks on behalf of the Taliban. His information has sometimes proven untrue or exaggerated, and his exact tie to the group's leadership is unclear.
Last updated 08/09/2006